No Global Definition of Valentines Day

You may not realize that February 14th is not celebrated universally in the same way.

My friend on Twitter Shashi Bellamkonda explains that he had not even heard of Valentines Day before he arrived in America 11 years ago.

In Japan, February 14th has been successfully commercialized as the day that women give chocolates to men. There is something called “giri choco” which refers to the obligatory gifting of chocolate to male colleagues in offices in Japan. Men give nothing to women on this day. The chocolate companies came up with a day for men to do their kaeshi (return) gift on March 14th. That holiday is called White Day and white chocolate is prescribed as the gift but it has never really become that popular.

For special men in their lives, Japanese women often create chocolate candy at home (no small feat).

Being a Japanese speaking female blonde executive in Japan, I was already so odd that I made up my own ways to celebrate. I ignored obligatory summer and winter gifts that are the usual occasion for business gifts and did my business gifting annually on Valentine’s Day. I had a particular Godiva chocolate set that I liked and could count on to be conveniently sent from an acceptably named department store to both males and females that were important in my business network.

Do you have a Valentines Day ritual?

Update: My friend Harold Archer responding to my post about White Day on Facebook March 14, 2014, said:
“Both the White Day and Valentine Day gift giving is starting to go all ways now, with many largely friend and “thank you” reasons. The word “giri choco” is not cool so much, rather “tomo choco” and more. Not the old style, and not just with gender, but with choco, other choco-related gifts.

About Linda Sherman

International, multicultural marketing pro, Linda brings a distinguished background of international subsidiary CEO/CMO to her Social Marketing expertise. These include CEO Club Med Japan, Barilla Japan and CMO Wal-Mart Japan. Managing Editor, Boomer Tech Talk, she is passionate about senior services including senior health care and housing. Linda Sherman has been featured and quoted in Forbes, The New York Times, Christian Monitor and other leading publications. She devised and implemented an innovative guerrilla-marketing plan for ZIMA in Japan that produced a lasting, profitable success. Linda has hands-on technical skills in building and search optimizing WordPress websites and an influential on-line presence. Her company, The Courage Group, provides personal and start-up branding, digital film; social marketing strategy and training.

Connect with Linda Sherman on Twitter and Instagram @LindaSherman.


  1. Linda,

    Congratulations on launching your blog. We learn everyday and now I know what “giri choco” means >

    Will look forward to more interesting blog posts here.


  2. In Mexico, Valentines day is a very new tradition celebrated only by the their generation. What I mean is that my parents for example, barely lived a Valentines day like we do today because back then it was perceived as a foreign custom.
    In Mexico, the rituals exist mainly among teenagers in high schools: its become a day in which you can tell how popular you are among your schoolmates from the opposite sex, given that you can secretly send candy, roses, balloons or chocolates to people you got a crush on.
    I was always one of the guys that received more chocolates and ballons than the others, but now that I think about it, I used to send a LOT of stuff to a lot of girls, so that makes sense. You reap what you sow right?

  3. I don’t have a Valentine’s ritual, but I wanted to share my mom’s. She buys my sister and I a Valentine’s gift every year because, according to her, we are the true loves of her life. That beats chocolate from a man any day 🙂

  4. LindaSherman says

    What a lovely Valentine’s ritual. Thank you!

  5. It’s kind of silly, but the “Valentine’s tradition” I’ve had for the last 8 years or so has been to buy those paper Valentine cards in a theme that I find especially cute (or that has a lot of kitsch value) and then distribute them to my friends, co-workers, etc. I started doing it in high school, just for fun, and have continued it over the years because it has proven to be enjoyable for me from not only a kitsch perspective, but because it has turned into kind of an unplanned way of standing out in a unique and positive way. It’s kind of amazing how people can still kind of light-up, upon receiving a little paper card with a few candy hearts inside the envelope. I was interning at a large cable network and legitimately, I think that my “Valentine Fairy” schtick that I’ve been doing, just because I enjoy doing it, for years, did more to further my networking and to getting positive attention from “the right people” than anything else I’ve ever done.

  6. In Turkey, Valentine’s Day is popular among the people of 15-30 age (15 is just an estimate, it should be whenever they start having a lover). And of course it is a middle/upper class thing. Those who have higher life standards probably give gifts to each other as well.

    As for how it is marketed in Turkey, Valentine’s Day in Turkish is “Sevgililer Gunu” meaning “Lover’s Day.” Both in commercials and media in general, buying and giving of gifts is promoted.

  7. Linda,
    Congrats on the new blog. I love your post on the Japanese giri choco ritual. Is this something you still do even though you no longer live in Japan? If so, let me know if you need my address 😉 J/K
    Can’t wait to watch this blog grow!

  8. LindaSherman says

    Thank you to Rachel for the link
    and her reminder that Valentine’s Day is about love.


  1. […] Linda Sherman points out on her blog, there is no global definition for Valentine’s Day. Traditions are different by country, and […]

  2. […] candy and jewelry are so last century, not to mention gender specific. Did you know that in Japan women give chocolates to men and men don’t give gifts on Valentines Day at all? Ladies, if we want gifts, let’s at […]

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